Ottawa - To potheads this past weekend, the Fill The Hill protest was game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs and election-night drama rolled into one giant spliff. Here were 2,000 kind souls from across our beautiful, great green nation toking on Parliament Hill. Lately, though, those attending pro-grass rallies might have begun to wonder if they are unofficial NDP conventions. Chances are the person passing that doobie sits on a riding executive - or is even a party candidate, like rally speaker Alison Myrden from Oakville.
It seems that just about everyone is shilling for the NDP these days, causing some notable friction with the Marijuana party. A much-heralded smokedown in April between Jack Layton and Marijuana party leader Marc-Boris St-Maurice, of course, never materialized.
When Prince of Pot Marc Emery walks by, not sweating in his trademark suit, handing out unofficial Jack Layton pro-pot lit, St-Maurice snarkily observes, "When the NDP screws you, you're all welcome back."
St-Maurice also wonders aloud, "Where is your great leader Jack Layton?" Though he has logged more travel time than any other political leader, Layton was never scheduled to address the crowd here.
NDP spokesperson Ian Capstick downplays the NDPot movement, saying, "It is not a central issue plank in our campaign." Still, Emery, a self-appointed NDP rep, makes sure on the Hill that everyone knows where the party stands. The colourful pot entrepreneur dropped four grand on full-colour two-sided glossy pro-grass, pro-NDP flyers that have the party's federal secretary threatening to sue.
Capstick sounds pretty perturbed about the whole issue and about Emery's enthusiasm for the party. He keeps repeating the same disclaimer: "Marc Emery is not authorized to speak on behalf of the NDP, nor will he be in the future."
Emery's unofficial campaign literature features a head shot of Layton with the quote, "Our party is in favour of modernizing our marijuana laws and creating a legal environment where people can enjoy marijuana in the peace and quiet of their own home or in a café without the fear of being criminalized."
The unauthorized material is so convincing that NDP Ottawa-Orleans candidate Crystal LeBlanc expresses concern when Marijuana party Ottawa-Vanier candidate Carol Taylor doffs her top near the unofficial NDP table. LeBlanc is upset about the media image of a gorgeous, intelligent topless woman being so close to the illegal Jack literature.
LeBlanc has no worries about the voluminous amount of grass being consumed, just as long as everyone keeps their shirt on while puffing.
The NDP isn't the only party trying to attract marijuana enthusiasts. Liberal rep Peter Graham says the Libs are going to reintroduce their poorly developed decrim legislation, and Tory spokesperson Andrew Skaling admits his party plans to maintain the status quo. When Skaling is asked if the status quo is pot cafés, public toking and the like, he replies, "It's a protest. People are entitled to express themselves."
Capstick and Graham both pass the doobie to their local candidates when specific questions arise about the operation of Kensington Market's Amsterdam-style Hot Box Café. A second smoking spot is rumoured to be opening shortly. Tom Allison, the campaign co-chair for Trinity-Spadina MP Tony Ianno, believes police are doing the right thing by not acting on the open marijuana consumption at Hot Box.
"The police are showing good judgment," he says. He suggests that the cops are demonstrating that they understand the spirit in which the Liberals enforce the pot law.
Bob Gallagher, Olivia Chow's campaign co-chair, hadn't heard about the café operating in the riding, but after I speak to him he becomes very enthused about it. He notes that Chow is a friend of medicinal marijuana activist Jim Wakeford. "As a councillor where this is happening, she has never had a problem with it," he says.
With cafés springing up in the harsh T-dot climate, one might be left with the impression that marijuana consumption has become very acceptable nationally and that the police aren't busting people. But Hot Box and Fill The Hill give the uninformed pothead the wrong message.
Just two days before the Hill protest, the RCMP raided the Vancouver Island Compassion Society's production facility. On Thursday, June 3, the police stole over 800 plants that the facility uses to treat its 390 terminally and chronically ill users. Smoking the last of the VICS organic herb, Philippe Lucas tells me about his investigation into Health Canada's official herb.
As the director of Canadians for Safe Access, Lucas has tested Health Canada's schwag against VICS grass. According to him, the VICS stuff is in the 20 per cent range of THC, while Health Canada's stash tips the scales at a measly 5 per cent.
Also in the dock is med-pot activist Lady DI, who filled my lunchbox with cookies and rolled me a fine joint from her garden. Though she is now a Health Canada exemptee, Lady DI was charged three years ago with production of marijuana. Her permit allows her to grow twice the amount of grass for which she was busted. Her trial begins soon.
The Prince of Pot does his best to dissuade the audience from their mistaken belief that all is right in the world of weed. "People say that no one goes to jail for pot smoking," Emery says. "I've been arrested 10 times and gone to jail 14 times. They're asking for six months' jail time for my passing two joints. Don't think you live in a modern and enlightened era."